- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

Say this about the Washington Redskins: They never make things easy.

As a result, the Redskins find themselves in situations like today’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Win and they are back to .500; lose and it’s uh-oh time.

Two weeks of offensive momentum and marginal defensive progress drowned in the New Jersey swampland last weekend with a 19-3 loss to the New York Giants. The Redskins now have reached another critical juncture.

At 2-3, they can ill afford to lose, especially with Indianapolis looming next week. If the Redskins are 2-5 heading into their bye, the playoffs are probably a pipe dream. If they’re 4-3 or 3-4 — with all of their division home games remaining — they control their fate.

“We look at our situation — 2-3 — and we do need a win,” quarterback Mark Brunell said.

But the interesting part about the Redskins is their demeanor. Just like last year, when they were sitting at 5-6, the locker room this week wasn’t gripped in a panic.

“Sometimes, a team will start out red hot and people start talking about them being the next undefeated team,” linebacker Marcus Washington said. “But then late in the season, they maybe get some injuries or play games in bad weather, and they fall apart. Other teams start out slow, but then something clicks and they win the Super Bowl.”

Walking by, receiver Antwaan Randle El said, “I know that.”

Last year, Randle El’s Steelers won their final eight games, including three road playoff games and the Super Bowl.

Three other veterans who have reached the playoffs with other teams said Week 6 isn’t time to push the panic button and said the Redskins’ locker room is equipped with the kind of players who know how to handle the roller coaster that is an NFL season.

Defensive end Phillip Daniels played for Chicago from 2000 to 2003. The Bears were 5-11 in 2000, 13-3 in 2001 and 4-12 in 2002.

“You hope not to get used to things being on a high and then at a low because you want to stay with your highs as long as possible,” he said. “But you have to find a way to string together more than two wins in a row to keep the momentum going.

“We have good leadership on this team, and they won’t let things slip too much. We need to come out like we did in the Houston and Jacksonville games and play strong and focused. I don’t know how focused we were in New York, but I know we didn’t play that well.

“It really does take a lot for me to panic because I’ve been in so many different situations with different teams. I don’t panic until it gets to the game where you know you’ll be in or out. Those last five games last year, every one of those were panic games because we couldn’t lose. But we have 11 games to go this year and have won two. There’s not a need to panic because I believe we have the guys in here who can get it fixed.”

Safety Adam Archuleta’s rookie season included a 14-2 record and a trip to the Super Bowl with St. Louis in 2001. But the Rams started 2002 by losing five consecutive games.

“My rookie year, I didn’t hit a low until we lost the Super Bowl,” he said. “We pretty much dominated the whole season, so that whole year was a high. The next year, losing five straight, I had a pretty big contrast.

“I don’t think it would be easy [to panic]. We’re in this room because we understand what it takes to win. Everybody here knows how to win and what it takes to win. If people panic and jump over the ledge after five games, you probably don’t have the right make-up to be a pro football player. You understand that’s the way things go. Being 2-3 is not where we want to be, but I’m not going to throw my hands up and call 911.

“You have to man-up and say, ‘Look, I need to take better care of my things.’ We can’t feel sorry for ourselves and point fingers.”

Tight end Christian Fauria, meanwhile, played on two Super Bowl-winning teams with New England. In 2002, the Patriots were 2-2 and ravaged by injuries. They didn’t lose another regular season game. Last year, they were 4-4 at the halfway point before winning six of their last eight.

“You come from college where you lose one game and you’re pretty much out of the national title picture,” he said. “In the pros, you learn to control your emotions because you can have the emotions of a lifetime in just one game — happy, angry, sad, scared. You go through a ton of things in one game. If you put that into a whole season, you’d have to go for psych treatment.

“The key is to not go crazy because bad things happen to every team. You have to be careful about getting too happy or too frustrated because they’re both dangerous, and if you put them together, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“As soon as you start patting yourself on the back, bad things happen because you get lackadaisical, you start resting on your laurels and you think you can just show up. And if you’re always down on yourself, it’s self pity hour every Sunday.”

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